Maldives records 9.3 per cent hike in tourist arrivals in Sept

Tourist arrivals to the Maldives in September recorded year-over-year growth of 9.3 per cent, the island nation’s tourism ministry announced Wednesday.

Official figures for the month of September released by the tourism ministry show that a total of 117,619 tourists visited the Maldives during the month — a 9.3 per cent increase over the 107,620 in September 2018.

According to the September statistics, total arrivals for the past nine months of the year increased by 15.8 per cent to reach 1,251,690 compared to the 1,080,459 in the same period last year.

The strong performance in the January-September period is mostly due to a significant rise in tourist arrivals from the traditional European market, which recorded year-over-year growth of 47.5 per cent, and the relatively new American market, which recorded year-over-year growth of 24.7 per cent.

Relatively new markets such as Africa and the Middle East also maintained their strong performance.

Middle East saw its market share reach 3.8 per cent due to a 15.1 per cent increase in the number of tourist arrivals (42,774) in the January-September period, whilst Africa, which observed a 22 per cent growth in arrivals, contributed 1.1 per cent (13,285) of the total tourist arrivals over the past nine months.

All the top five source markets posted positive growth in arrivals by the end of August.

Despite a year-over-year drop of 11.6 per cent in arrivals in September, China maintained its position as the top contributor to Maldives tourism with a marketshare of 18.4 per cent, as arrivals from China increased by 3.7 per cent during the January-September period to reach 230,349.

India, which had recently overtaken traditional European markets to claim the second spot, maintained its position, as the Maldives’ closest neighbour retained a marketshare of 9.2 per cent with a 105.1 per cent growth in tourist arrivals during the past nine months of the year. A total of 115,507 tourists from India spent their vacation in the Maldives during the period.

Italy, which had in May lost the second place to India, maintained its position as the third biggest source market with a market share of 7.8 per cent. Arrivals from Italy increased by 31.7 per cent to reach 97,375 in the January-September period.

Germany and the UK, which slid to fourth and fifth position in May and again in August, retained their respective positions in September, as the UK and Germany maintained a marketshare of 7.3 per cent and 7.5 per cent, respectively. Arrivals from Germany grew by 16.8 per cent to reach 93,727 during the past nine months of the year, whilst visitor numbers from the UK saw an increase of 9.2 per cent to reach 90,963 during the period.

France, which saw its marketshare fall to 3.6 per cent, maintained the seventh position, whilst Russia claimed the sixth position with a marketshare of 4.7 per cent. Arrivals from Russia increased by 14.1 per cent to reach 58,306 by the end of September, whilst the number of French tourists visiting the Maldives in the same period grew by 22 per cent to reach 44,722.

The US and Japan maintained their respective rankings as the eighth (3.1 per cent of total arrivals) and ninth (2.7 per cent of total arrivals) biggest contributor to the Maldives tourism. Arrivals from the US market increased by 29.2 per cent to reach 39,013 in the past nine months of the year, whilst the number of Japanese tourists visiting the Maldives in the same period increased by 9.5 per cent to reach 33,367.

Meanwhile, the emerging Australian market knocked out established European markets such as Sweden and Switzerland from the top 10 source markets’ list, as Australia’s marketshare reached 2.4 per cent in September. Arrivals from Australia grew by 8.2 per cent in the January-September period to reach 30,066.

Maldives has welcomed over a million tourists this year, as the destination attempts to reach an ambitious target of 1.5 million visitors over the next three months.

The one millionth visitor of the year arrived in the Maldives on August 2 — a month ahead of last year. In 2018, the one millionth mark was reached on September 9, whilst it was celebrated in October the previous year.

Maldives welcomed a record 1.4 million tourists in 2018. It was a 6.8 per cent increase from the 1,389,542 tourists that chose to holiday in the Maldives in 2017.

Meanwhile, government has revised its forecast for the number of tourists visiting the island nation this year, increasing the estimate to a record 1.6 million from 1.5 million.

This positive growth in the tourism industry comes amidst concerns by private organisations representing industry stakeholders such as the Maldives Association of Travel Agents and Tour Operators (MATATO) over the lack of effort and budget to promote the Maldives as a destination.

These concerns come as the world-famous holiday destination struggles to match an increased bed capacity.

Over the past few years, dozens of uninhabited islands have been leased to local and foreign resort developers. Several international brands have entered into the market, increasing the number of resorts to more than 130. That number is set to increase as another 20 resorts are expected to open over the next two years.

Along with the new resort openings come the challenge of increasing demand from budget travellers who choose guesthouses over luxury resorts that the Maldives is known for. The guesthouse sector has rapidly expanded with over 500 guesthouses in operation today.

The previous government announced steps to maintain a structured growth in tourism, including a slowdown in leasing islands for resort development and increased marketing efforts in key markets such as China and the Middle East in order to reach an ambitious target of a record 1.5 million tourist arrivals this year.

Meanwhile, the new government has pledged to ramp up tourism promotion.

Reflecting the new government’s pledge, the state budget for 2019 includes MVR 104,200,000 (USD 6.7 million) for tourism promotion, up from MVR 34,733,333 (USD 2.2 million) this year and the previous year.

Photo: Kandima Maldives

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